The Centre’s announcement of a cessation of operations in Jammu and Kashmir during the month of Ramzan is a welcome step. The direction to the security forces not to launch operations in the State during this period, while allowing them to reserve “the right to retaliate if attacked or if it is essential to protect the lives of innocent people”, is aimed at bringing respite to the Valley after two years of escalated violence, since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen ‘commander’ Burhan Wani in July 2016.
CM communication to centre of ceasefire
The decision came days after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti informed the Centre that an all-party meeting had called for a ceasefire. The quick response will help her recover some equilibrium politically, and get an administrative grip on the street. In this current phase of violence in the Valley, there has been a marked increase in home-grown militancy. All too often, the funeral of a local militant has become the rallying point for anti-state protests, which lead to new recruitment. The ceasefire will limit such occasions. The stone-pelting protests too have taken their toll and deepened alienation. The cessation of cordon-and-search operations is a high-risk initiative — but it is the very riskiness of the gesture that could invite confidence among local groups to consider ways and means to mark an end to the violent couple of years.
What is required?
A series of calibrated complementary steps are required if any lasting contribution to improving the situation on the ground is to be made. Importantly, the announcement came just ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled visit to Srinagar on Saturday, and his remarks will be closely tracked. The ceasefire has brought back memories of the 2000 Ramzan effort of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. That initiative set in motion a series of developments towards dialogue, despite the still-fresh wounds of the 1999 Kargil conflict. There are parallels between those days and today. In terms of violence, Kashmir is quickly spiralling out of control to the level seen 15 years ago. Even as the security forces have gunned down 64 suspected terrorists in 2018, a large number of young Kashmiris have taken up arms.
According to the latest data from the State police, 69 local youth have joined militancy, 35 of them in the wake of the April 1 operations in which 13 locals were killed. But just a temporary halt to security operations in Kashmir is not enough. At best, it can be the first step in a long and difficult road to recovery, and eventually peace. Currently, the 2003 ceasefire on the Pakistan border is in tatters.
It must be urgently restored. But most important, a political outreach, possibly unconditional, is required to help Kashmir get back to normal. As Mr. Vajpayee did back then, Mr. Modi must take political ownership of the outreach. Else, the Ramzan ceasefire could remain an isolated outreach.
(Adapted from The Hindu)